Reviews | Khalid Aljabri: Biden should save ties with Saudi Arabia – with conditions
Biden entered office planning to recalibrate US relations with Saudi Arabia. But despite the crown prince’s (widely known as MBS) snobbery and the release of an intelligence report that found him guilty of murdering Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi, the Biden administration’s policy toward the kingdom remained incomprehensible. The recent meeting between CIA Director William J. Burns and MBS, followed by the visit of Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Khalid bin Salman to Washington last week, suggests a rapprochement is brewing.
However, any reconciliation that includes Biden-MBS interaction and renewed US security assurances must be conditional on Saudi Arabia respecting US interests and values, starting with increasing oil production and committing to return. accounts for the gruesome murder of Khashoggi.
For starters, instead of siding with Moscow, Riyadh must fulfill its obligations to Washington stemming from the decades-old tacit agreement on oil security. It should increase its crude production to support American interests in Ukraine and lower energy prices, which have soared in recent months. Even before increasing oil production, the kingdom should help European countries wean off Russian oil by diverting crude exports to Europe at reduced prices. Moreover, Saudi Arabia, as the de facto leader of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), should exclude Russia from any future OPEC oil production agreement after the expiry of the current one. “OPEC+” agreement between the oil producing countries in several months.
Khashoggi started writing for The Post a week after MBS arrested a group of his intellectual friends. Khashoggi warned of an increasingly oppressive Saudi regime long before he became its most notable victim. Without direct sanctions against the Saudi Crown Prince, there will never be explicit accountability and a scripted apology from MBS will mean nothing. The closest thing to accountability for the murder is for MBS to release the detainees Khashoggi pleaded for and stop targeting dissidents overseas. If Khashoggi were alive, that’s what he would have demanded; that’s what Biden should be asking now.
Additionally, Biden should use positive inducements to alter the Crown Prince’s repressive behavior. MBS, motivated by self-interest, would agree to US human rights demands if they were accompanied by inducement and devoid of humiliation. Eager to pull himself together in the United States, MBS should understand that allowing American hostages in Saudi Arabia to return home is a prerequisite for him to return to the United States again.
If Saudi Arabia agrees to US rapprochement terms, Biden is expected to reset the relationship by hosting King Salman and other Gulf leaders at another US-Gulf Cooperation Council summit at Camp David . At such a meeting, the United States can appease its Gulf partners ahead of a possible return to the Iran deal, rekindle the importance of the GCC’s collective responsibility in regional security, and showcase a rebalanced institutional partnership. based on synchronized security, energy, diplomacy, economic and trade cooperation.
Alternatively, Biden could make the same speech to Gulf leaders at GCC headquarters in Riyadh if he visits the region, as planned, in June. However, a presidential shutdown in Saudi Arabia that is not preceded by increased oil production or visible human rights concessions would be unpleasant.
After a reset, for any US-Saudi reconciliation to be lasting, Biden must restore the institutional nature of the relationship, which has spanned seven different Saudi monarchs. An expedited confirmation of Michael Ratney as Washington’s ambassador to Riyadh would serve this purpose. The highly personalized ties between the Trump administration and MBS were destructive, but Biden would sometimes benefit from sending a designated envoy, a competent and serious person who the Saudis say has the president’s ear – an anti -Jared Kushner.
As Biden attempts to recalibrate the US-Saudi partnership, he should not capitulate to Riyadh’s exploitation of the Ukraine crisis and high energy prices by making one-sided US concessions. Nor should Biden cave in to the demands of a concerted Saudi public relations offensive that blames him for the sour relationship, burdens his administration with the burden of reconciliation and redefines murderer MBS as an innocent victim.
Regardless of what the planned reconciliation entails, Washington should make as many demands as Riyadh. At the end of the day, both sides know that no matter what time-limited oil leverage Saudi Arabia uses, the United States will always have the upper hand.